Credential As You Go

Last Updated: 03/12/2024


The Credential As You Go initiative focuses on building an incremental credentialing system, recognizing the value in many types of quality credentials, including degrees, certificates, industry certifications, licenses, badges, and microcredentials. All of these credentials – and others – document an individual’s learning, and they are awarded by many types of providers, including community and technical colleges, four-year colleges and universities, third-party organizations, employers, the military, and state licensing boards.

The initiative builds on a two-year planning project funded by Lumina Foundation. That Phase 1 project, undertaken in 2018 by faculty from two- and four-year institutions in the State University System of New York, explored the feasibility of a nationally recognized, transferable, incremental credentialing system. Project faculty conducted an environmental scan of nearly 90 initiatives across 41 states designed to serve students better and capture what they know. Results indicated that some states, higher education systems, and institutions were already moving toward incremental credentialing, but in different ways. Patterns of credentialing were identified and used to inform the emerging Framework of Incremental Credentialing.

From 2021 through 2024, Phase 2 of the project is testing the utility of this framework at the undergraduate and graduate levels in three states (Colorado, New York, and North Carolina). Phase 2 is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

A Phase 3 effort (2022-2023), aided by a grant from Walmart, focuses on systems change for expansion and sustainability of incremental credentials.

The Credential As You Go initiative has many components, all of which are needed to create a nationally recognized, incremental credentialing system. These include: a national campaign to build understanding and support, research to build the evidence for the new system, training and technical assistance, commitment to equity and inclusion, policy changes, and connections with related initiatives.


Empire State University; Corporation for a Skilled Workforce; Program on Skills, Credentials & Workforce Policy at George Washington University; the states of Colorado, North Carolina, and New York; United States Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences (IES); a National Advisory Board whose members represent more than 130+ organizations.


Credential As You Go

Connections To The Learn-And-Work Ecosystem


  • Short-term Credentials, Short-term Training – Discusses short-term credential programs, which are a key aspect of the “Credential As You Go” initiative.
  • Quality Non-degree Credential – Focuses on ensuring the quality of non-degree credentials, aligning with the initiative’s goals to provide valuable credentialing options.
  • Digital Credentials – Explores the use of digital credentials, which is an innovative approach within the “Credential As You Go” framework.
  • Competency-Based Education – Highlights competency-based education, relevant to the initiative’s focus on recognizing and validating competencies.
  • Microcredentials – Discusses microcredentials, which are integral to the initiative’s strategy for incremental credentialing.


  • Unified Credential Framework (UCF) – This initiative by Western Governors University aligns with “Credential As You Go” by providing a framework for recognizing various forms of learning and credentials in a unified manner.
  • Quality Assurance Standards for Microcredentials – From Microcredentials Partnership of States (MPOS), this initiative sets standards for microcredentials, similar to the goals of “Credential As You Go”.
  • Open Skills Network – Focuses on creating open standards for skills and competencies, aligning with the incremental credentialing model of “Credential As You Go”.
  • Credential Engine – Works to improve transparency in credentialing, supporting the initiative’s goals to provide clear pathways and value to learners.


  • Lumina Foundation – Supports innovative credentialing systems, providing significant backing and thought leadership to initiatives like “Credential As You Go”.
  • Credential Engine – A key organization working on credential transparency and standardization, central to the “Credential As You Go” goals.
  • National Skills Coalition – Focuses on policies and programs that support skill development and credentialing, aligning with the initiative’s objectives.
  • Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) – Promotes adult learning and credentialing, which is directly relevant to “Credential As You Go”.
  • American Council on Education (ACE) – Engages in activities supporting innovative credentialing systems and education pathways.


  • Alternative Credentials – Refers to non-traditional forms of credentials, which are a core aspect of the “Credential As You Go” initiative.
  • Microcredentials – Small, focused credentials that are integral to the incremental approach promoted by “Credential As You Go”.
  • Digital Credentials – Electronic proof of learning or skill acquisition, which are used extensively in the initiative.
  • Competency-Based Education – Education model based on skill mastery, crucial for understanding the credentialing process in the initiative.
  • Non-degree Credentials – Credentials that do not lead to a traditional degree, which are promoted within the “Credential As You Go” framework.
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